For a safe and festive holiday, choose your Christmas tree carefully and care for it well.
The tree species that are available vary considerably from one part of the country to another. For example, in the Chicago area, the species most commonly sold are Fraser fir, balsam fir, concolor fir, and Scots pine.
Some species of evergreen tree dry out faster than others; others retain their needles longer. Some are more fragrant. They may have stiff, dense branches, good for many heavy ornaments, or widely spaced branches that will better display a few cherished pieces. Family tradition may favor one kind of tree over another.
Freshness is critical, because a tree begins to dry out as soon as it is cut down. The freshest tree is one you cut yourself from a choose-and-cut tree farm. Trees from small local lots are likely to have been harvested within a few days to a few weeks and be fairly fresh. Trees sold at large retailers may have been cut months ago to be distributed to many locations, so they should be carefully checked for freshness.
Check a tree’s freshness by gently brushing a branch. If many needles fall off or feel stiff or crackly, the tree is dry and should not be bought. The needles should be firmly attached, pliable, and fragrant. The cut end of a fresh tree’s trunk should be sticky with sap. While checking for freshness also check to see that no insects or egg masses are coming home with you. This is uncommon, as Christmas trees are inspected for pests, but better safe than sorry.
Whatever species of tree you buy, make sure you keep it supplied with water all through the holiday season. Place the freshly cut end in water within two hours of your purchase. Once the tree is in its stand, check the water level daily and replenish the water as needed. Never allow the cut end of the tree to dry out, or it will no longer be able to absorb water.
A fresh tree may not absorb much water right away, as it still contains water. In a day or two, as it begins to dry out, it will absorb more water. If the tree was less fresh when purchased, it may absorb water quickly when it is first put in the stand.
Keep the tree away from heat sources such as radiators, heating vents, fireplaces, areas with large amounts of direct sunlight, or candles. If the tree begins to lose excessive needles, or they start to feel dry and the branches become, brittle remove the tree from the house.
A tree that If it is well cared for, with a constant water supply, should last several weeks, and will be a green, fragrant, and welcome part of your holiday celebration.